Dec 9, 2014 4:15 PM

Union: Not consulted on conduct policy

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) The players' union says it has not had input into a revamped personal conduct policy the NFL is preparing.

NFL owners are meeting Wednesday in Irving, Texas, and are expected to see a framework for changes to the policy. The union has sought to have any alterations to the policy negotiated.

The current policy was part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. But in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, portions of the policy are being reworked.

"In the latest of four talks (about the personal conduct policy) they progressively got less interested," NFL Players Association President Eric Winston said of the NFL during a conference call Tuesday. "And we found out before this last meeting that they were already planning to present it. They basically asked us to a meeting as a farce, to say they met with the players three or four times.

"We found out a personal conduct (policy presentation) would be rolled out this week to the owners."

Added union executive Zak DeOssie: "We got an invitation and the topic was the conduct policy and we sort of knew going into that meeting that they were not entertaining the idea of this being a collectively bargained issue. We asked a bunch of times, 'Is this what we are about to talk about, collectively bargained?' And they reiterated no.

"We were left with no choice to not engage with them with any sort of policy that the owners are going to see."

Among the union's aims is to have Commissioner Roger Goodell's role in handing out discipline reduced or even eliminated.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said the union's proposal "would weaken the policy."

"The commissioner's disciplinary authority for off-field conduct was negotiated as part of the 2011 CBA," Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press. "The personal conduct policy applies to all NFL personnel and has never been the subject of collective bargaining. It has been in place for almost 20 years (since 1997)."

The players argue that Goodell has mishandled discipline for Rice and Peterson. They point to how former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said Goodell's decision in September to change Rice's original suspension from two games to indefinite was "arbitrary" and an "abuse of discretion." Jones then threw out the suspension, making Rice a free agent. He has not signed with any team.

And the union cites Peterson's punishment: Goodell suspended him until next April 15 after the Minnesota Vikings running back pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. Peterson's appeal was heard by Harold Henderson last week. Henderson, a former NFL executive, was appointed by Goodell to rule on the appeal and is expected to do so soon.

"We reiterate it is a bad process and we've got to figure out a way to get out of a bad process," Winston said.

The league responded earlier this month to the union's demand for negotiations on the conduct policy with a letter from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. He wrote that the NFL is prepared to discuss modifying the CBA section regarding discipline "to provide that the initial disciplinary decision would be made by someone other than the commissioner or his designee. We would be prepared to consult with the NFLPA on the identity of such a disciplinary officer."

But any appeal would continue to be heard by the commissioner or his designee.

Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman, also a member of the NFLPA's executive council, is not enamored of that plan.

"We hear the owners say we are partners," Sherman said. "I think both sides should have input. Every time a decision is made, it should be both sides having input."


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